Jersey pleased with pickup

CALCUTTA – A Wellsville man wanted in New Jersey on several felony counts was taken into custody Monday afternoon by a St. Clair Township police officer who happened to notice him drive by.

John E. Bowles, 38, whose last known address was Aten Avenue in Wellsville, was taken into custody by patrolman Jim Briggs on Calcutta-Smith Ferry Road near the township line and charged as a fugitive from justice.

Police had received a tip that Bowles might be at the PNC Bank branch on St. Clair Avenue, and Briggs began checking the area, with East Liverpool city police also checking their end of St. Clair Avenue.

He was reported to be driving a silver vehicle with a Pennsylvania license plate, and Briggs had returned to the township police station when he looked up and noticed a silver car with Pennsylvania plates going past.

One number on the license plate was different than that given for the vehicle police thought Bowles was driving, but Briggs made a traffic stop, saying he told the driver to remain in the vehicle while he waited for backup.

Both township and city police officers arrived on the scene, where the driver handed Briggs a Georgia driver’s license with the name Eric Page.

As city police officers at the station prepared to compare an emailed photo of the driver with one they had of Bowles, he reportedly admitted that as his identity, and it was learned he had a warrant with a pickup radius anywhere in the United States.

Briggs said dispatchers spoke with New Jersey state police, saying, “They’re very pleased we got him,” and saying they are willing to come and get him.

“Sometimes, you just go on a hunch. This time, I hit the jackpot,” Briggs said.

Bowles was one of 51 people indicted in September by a New Jersey grand jury for selling or possessing firearms. Included were 11 men from Ohio charged with selling 18 guns in Newark and Irvington, N.J. as part of a conspiracy to illegally traffic guns into New Jersey from Ohio.

The guns, including assault rifles, shotguns, rifles and handguns, were sold between October 2012 and January of this year.

In relation to that indictment, Bowles was charged with conspiracy and unlawful disposition of firearms, unlawful possession of a handgun and possession of guns as a convicted felon.

If convicted, he could face between five and 10 years in prison for the charges, with a mandatory five-year prison term for possession of guns as a convicted felon.

Bowles has appeared in the local Municipal Court on several charges in recent years, including forgery, as a fugitive from justice from Muskingum County, for obstructing official business and traffic charges.

He is housed in the Columbiana County Jail awaiting an appearance in East Liverpool Municipal Court on the fugitive charge.